Separating Gender Identity from Sexuality

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Often when I see something posted online related to the transgender community, I see a lot of comments from people regarding sexuality instead. Many people seem to be under the mistaken assumption that being transgender, or genderqueer, is somehow related to their sexuality or their sexual preferences. There seems to be a lot of confusion between what sexuality and gender identity are, so I hope I can help clarify that.

What is Sexuality?

Sexuality refers to who you are sexually attracted to. More crudely, it means who you want to have sex with. If you’re heterosexual, it means you’re sexually attracted to people whose gender is different from your own. If you’re homosexual, it means you’re attracted to people whose gender is the same as your own.

Beyond that, it gets a little more complicated when we start discussing bisexual, pansexual, and asexual people. People who are either attracted to either or all sexes, or those who do not experience sexual attraction. Regardless, sexuality is all about who you want (or don’t want) to have sex with.

What is Gender Identity?

Gender identity refers to how you identify as a person. It has nothing to do with who you want to have sex with, so let’s set that aside. If your identity aligns with your biological sex, then you are considered cisgender. Being called cisgender is not a slur. It’s just a way to differentiate from other gender identities. The majority of people are cisgender.

To clarify, if you were born biologically male, with the XY chromosome, a penis, and testicles, and you personally identify as male, then you are a cisgender man. The same is true for cisgender women who are born with an XX chromosome, a vagina, uterus, and ovaries.

On the other hand, if your identity does not align with your biological sex, then you are transgender. This means that you are born biologically male, but you identify as female, or you are born biologically female but identify as male.

When it comes to gender identity, there are also complicating factors such as being born intersex, where your biological sex is not clearly defined because either your chromosomes, your physical parts, or both don’t conform to societal expectations of sex. There are also people who identify as non-binary, genderfluid, genderqueer, or agender. I won’t go into detail on those identities in this article.

Does Gender Identity Affect Sexuality?

As I stated earlier, gender identity has nothing to do with a person’s sexuality, although it can affect the label we use. I will use myself as an example. I was born biologically female, but I identify as male. This makes me a transgender man. For decades I lived as a woman because I didn’t think I had any other choice. When it comes to my sexuality, I am only attracted to men. For years, people saw me as a woman who dated men and married a man. So, I was viewed as heterosexual, or in the more common vernacular, straight.

Now that I am undergoing the transition to male, in another year or so people will start to view me as a man. I will look and sound masculine, as my voice deepens, and I begin to grow facial hair. That will not change the fact that I am only attracted to men. Society will view me as homosexual or gay. The only thing that changes is the label, because of the gender people will see me as.

Personally, when it comes to my sexuality, I prefer using the term androsexual, which literally means exclusive sexual attraction to men. That’s my sexuality, and that does not change regardless of my gender identity or presentation.

Should Sexuality be Discussed with Gender Identity?

Yes and no. It really depends on the context of the conversation. If the entire focus is on gender identity and the transgender community, then I don’t think it’s appropriate to fixate on anyone’s sexuality. Being transgender has nothing to do with what we do, or don’t do, in the bedroom. It is my hope that people will eventually understand that.

Written by

Transgender writer and author. Posting weekly on a variety of LGBTQ and health related topics.

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